Crime and Public Policy

Crime and Public Policy

Crime and Public Policy

Crime and Public Policy

Synopsis

Crime in the United States has fluctuated considerably over the past thirty years, as have the policy approaches to deal with it. During this time criminologists and other scholars have helped to shed light on the role of incarceration, prevention, drugs, guns, policing, and numerous other aspects to crime control. Yet the latest research is rarely heard in public discussions and is often missing from the desks of policymakers. This book accessibly summarizes the latest scientific information on the causes of crime and evidence about what does and does not work to control it. Thoroughly revised and updated, this new edition of Crime and Public Policy will include twenty chapters and five new substantial entries. As with previous editions, each essay reviews the existing literature, discusses the methodological rigor of the studies, identifies what policies and programs the studies suggest, and then points to policies now implemented that fail to reflect the evidence. The chapters cover the principle institutions of the criminal justice system (juvenile justice, police, prisons, probation and parole, sentencing), how broader aspects of social life inhibit or encourage crime (biology, schools, families, communities), and topics currently generating a great deal of attention (criminal activities of gangs, sex offenders, prisoner reentry, changing crime rates). With contributions from trusted, leading scholars, Crime and Public Policy offers the most comprehensive and balanced guide to how the latest and best social science research informs the understanding of crime and its control for policymakers, community leaders, and students of crime and criminal justice.

Excerpt

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Cross-national comparisons of crime and criminal justice policy have a unique place in criminology and policy research. Simple comparisons of crime rates or imprisonment rates across nations have tremendous power to sway popular opinion and the public debate. No one wants to be the nation first in the ranking of bad national indicators or last in the ranking of good ones. For all of their influence, however, cross-national comparisons are difficult to do well and may be therefore often misleading rather than enlightening. Nations that make extensive use of mental institutions for serious violent offenders, for example, will have lower imprisonment rates than those that do not, but when secure mental health facilities are included, the imprisonment rates may be the same. Moreover, simple rate comparisons should be the first step in understanding cross-national comparisons of crime and punishment, not the last. This chapter examines the common wisdom about the place of the United States relative to other nations in terms of crime and punishment. It revisits the common wisdom, taking account of more recently available information, to see if these beliefs hold up. We also explore how recent changes in the array of nations and the varieties of data available may reduce our reliance on simple rate comparisons and increase our understanding of cross-national differences in crime and justice policy.

The first of the following sections addresses common beliefs about the place of the United States with respect to crime and punishment and how that has changed over time. It also addresses the proper role of crossnational comparisons in producing research to guide policy. The second section describes changes in the number of nations on which we have cross-national data, the quality of those data, and the ways in which this information has been used. The third section examines differences in crime across nations over time and addresses some of the methodological complexities involved in making accurate comparisons. The fourth section does the same for punishment policy. The concluding section reassesses the common wisdom regarding the relative position of the United States on crime and punishment in light of the new data. It also suggests . . .

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